Bringing them home

Alexandra Roginski is studying the history of phrenology. Source: Photo: Jay Cronan.

Review of Alexandra Roginski, The Hanged Man and the Body Thief.

Carolyn Webb, Book tells of 19th century body-snatching and skull collecting, The Age, 25 June 2015

The skull of an Aboriginal man that was stolen from his grave in the early 1860s and later stored on Museum Victoria shelves for 126 years will be returned to his people later this month, thanks to an academic’s detective work.

A new book tells the extraordinary true story of the execution of Jim Crow for rape, illegal exhumation of his skull for a crackpot science show, and the later donation of the skull to the museum.

Now Crow’s skull is among thousands of Indigenous remains the museum is repatriating …

Lindy Allen, manager of Museum Victoria’s repatriation program, said that between 1984 and 2014, Museum Victoria approved the deaccession of the remains of more than 1400 people, for repatriation to Indigenous communities around the country.

But as of June 2015 the museum still holds 1527 Aboriginal remains. The origins of almost half of those (730) have yet to be traced.

Ms Allen said repatriation “is probably one of the most important things this museum does”.

The museum had committed “past injustices”, but had “a commitment to doing the right thing now and dealing with the remains in a way the community want.”

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